United Kingdom: The Truth, Knowledge And History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

United Kingdom

Introduction As the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth’s surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK’s strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the Irish republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process.
History On 1 May 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. This event was the result of the Treaty of Union that was agreed on 22 July 1706, and then ratified by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland each passing an Act of Union in 1707. Almost a century later, the Kingdom of Ireland, already under English control by 1691, joined the Kingdom of Great Britain with the passing of the Act of Union 1800. Although England and Scotland had been separate states prior to 1707, they had been in personal union since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when James VI King of Scots had inherited the throne of the Kingdoms of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London.

In its first century, the United Kingdom played an important role in developing Western ideas of the parliamentary system as well as making significant contributions to literature, the arts, and science. The UK-led Industrial Revolution transformed the country and fuelled the growing British Empire. During this time, like other great powers, the UK was involved in colonial exploitation, including the Atlantic slave trade, although the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 made it the first country to prohibit trade in slaves.

After the defeat of Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, the UK emerged as the principal naval power of the 19th century and remained an eminent power into the mid-20th century. The British Empire expanded to its maximum size by 1921, gaining the League of Nations mandate over former German and Ottoman colonies after World War I. One year later, the BBC, the world’s first large-scale international broadcasting network, was created.

Long simmering tensions in Ireland led to the partition of the island in 1920, followed by independence for the Irish Free State in 1922 with Northern Ireland remaining within the UK. As a result, in 1927, the formal name of the UK was changed to its current name, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The UK fought Nazi Germany as one of the major Allied powers of World War II. At one stage in 1940, amid the Battle of Britain, it stood alone against the Axis. After the victory, the UK played a key role in designing a new world order. World War II left the United Kingdom financially damaged. However, Marshall Aid and costly loans taken from both Canada and the United States helped the UK on the road to recovery.

The immediate post-war years saw the establishment of the Welfare State, including among the world’s first and most comprehensive public health services, while the demands of a recovering economy attracted immigrants from all over the Commonwealth. Although the new postwar limits of Britain’s political role were confirmed by the Suez Crisis of 1956, the international spread of the English language meant the continuing influence of its literature and culture, while from the 1960s its popular culture also found influence abroad.

Following a period of global economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the 1980s saw the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues and economic growth. The premiership of Margaret Thatcher marked a significant change of direction from the post-war political and economic consensus; a path that has continued under the New Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown since 1997.

The United Kingdom was one of the 12 founding members of the European Union at its launch in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. Prior to that, it had been a member of the EU’s forerunner, the European Economic Community (EEC), from 1973. The attitude of the present Labour government towards further integration with this organisation is mixed, with the Official Opposition, the Conservative Party, favouring less powers and competencies being transferred to the EU.

The end of the 20th century saw major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales following pre-legislative referenda.

Geography Location: Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France
Geographic coordinates: 54 00 N, 2 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 244,820 sq km
land: 241,590 sq km
water: 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 360 km
border countries: Ireland 360 km
Coastline: 12,429 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries
Climate: temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast
Terrain: mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: The Fens -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m
Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, lead, zinc, gold, tin, limestone, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, potash, silica sand, slate, arable land
Land use: arable land: 23.23%
permanent crops: 0.2%
other: 76.57% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 160.6 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 11.75 cu km/yr (22%/75%/3%)
per capita: 197 cu m/yr (1994)
Natural hazards: winter windstorms; floods
Environment – current issues: continues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move toward a domestic goal of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010); by 2005 the government reduced the amount of industrial and commercial waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85% of 1998 levels and recycled or composted at least 25% of household waste, increasing to 33% by 2015
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters
Politics The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy: Queen Elizabeth II is head of state of the UK as well as of fifteen other Commonwealth countries, putting the UK in a personal union with those other states. The Crown has sovereignty over the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, which are not part of the United Kingdom though the UK government manages their foreign affairs and defence and the UK Parliament has the authority to legislate on their behalf.

Since the United Kingdom is one of the three countries in the world today that does not have a codified constitution, the Constitution of the United Kingdom consists mostly of written sources, including statutes, judge made case law, and international treaties. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and “constitutional law,” the UK Parliament can perform “constitutional reform” simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.

The UK has a parliamentary government based on the Westminster system that has been emulated around the world — a legacy of the British Empire. The Parliament of the United Kingdom that meets in the Palace of Westminster has two houses: an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords, and any Bill passed requires Royal Assent to become law. It is the ultimate legislative authority in the United Kingdom since the devolved parliament in Scotland and devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, and Wales are not sovereign bodies and could be abolished by the UK parliament despite being established following public approval as expressed in referenda.

The position of Prime Minister, the UK’s head of government, belongs to the Member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the current leader of the largest political party in that chamber. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are formally appointed by the Monarch to form Her Majesty’s Government. Though the Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet, and by convention HM The Queen respects the Prime Minister’s choices. The Cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister’s party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet, all of whom are sworn into Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, and become Ministers of the Crown. The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, leader of the Labour Party, has been Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service since 27 June 2007.

For elections to the House of Commons, the UK is currently divided into 646 constituencies, with 529 in England, 18 in Northern Ireland, 59 in Scotland and 40 in Wales, though this number will rise to 650 at the next General Election. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament by simple plurality. General Elections are called by the Monarch when the Prime Minister so advises. Though there is no minimum term for a Parliament, the Parliament Act (1911) requires that a new election must be called within five years of the previous general election.

The UK’s three major political parties are the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberal Democrats, who won between them 616 out of the 646 seats available in the House of Commons at the 2005 general election. Most of the remaining seats were won by parties that only contest elections in one part of the UK such as the Scottish National Party (Scotland only), Plaid Cymru (Wales only), and the Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland only, though Sinn Féin also contests elections in Ireland). In accordance with party policy, no elected Sinn Féin Member of Parliament has ever attended the House of Commons to speak in the House on behalf of their constituents as Members of Parliament are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarch.

For elections to the European Parliament, the UK currently has 78 MEPs, elected in 12 multi-member constituencies, though this total will drop to 72 at the 2009 elections. Questions over sovereignty have been brought forward due to the UK’s membership of the European Union.

People Population: 60,943,912 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 5,287,590/female 5,036,881)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 20,698,645/female 20,185,040)
65 years and over: 16% (male 4,186,561/female 5,549,195) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39.9 years
male: 38.8 years
female: 41 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.276% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 10.65 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 10.05 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.17 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.93 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.49 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.85 years
male: 76.37 years
female: 81.46 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.66 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 51,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
adjective: British
Ethnic groups: white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (2001 census)
Languages: English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over has completed five or more years of schooling
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 5.6% of GDP (2005)
Government Country name: conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; note – Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales
conventional short form: United Kingdom
abbreviation: UK
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Capital: name: London
geographic coordinates: 51 30 N, 0 10 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: applies to the United Kingdom proper, not to its overseas dependencies or territories
Administrative divisions: England: 34 two-tier counties, 32 London boroughs and 1 City of London or Greater London, 36 metropolitan counties, 46 unitary authorities
two-tier counties: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, Durham, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire, West Sussex, Wiltshire, Worcestershire
London boroughs and City of London or Greater London: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, City of London, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Westminster
metropolitan counties: Barnsley, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Bury, Calderdale, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudley, Gateshead, Kirklees, Knowlsey, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Oldham, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Sefton, Sheffield, Solihull, South Tyneside, St. Helens, Stockport, Sunderland, Tameside, Trafford, Wakefield, Walsall, Wigan, Wirral, Wolverhampton
unitary authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bracknell Forest, Brighton and Hove, City of Bristol, Darlington, Derby, East Riding of Yorkshire, Halton, Hartlepool, County of Herefordshire, Isle of Wight, City of Kingston upon Hull, Leicester, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North Somerset, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth, Reading, Redcar and Cleveland, Rutland, Slough, South Gloucestershire, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Torbay, Warrington, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham, York
Northern Ireland: 26 district council areas
district council areas: Antrim, Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Derry, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Larne, Limavady, Lisburn, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh, Strabane
Scotland: 32 unitary authorities
unitary authorities: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, The Scottish Borders, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian
Wales: 22 unitary authorities
unitary authorities: Blaenau Gwent; Bridgend; Caerphilly; Cardiff; Carmarthenshire; Ceredigion; Conwy; Denbighshire; Flintshire; Gwynedd; Isle of Anglesey; Merthyr Tydfil; Monmouthshire; Neath Port Talbot; Newport; Pembrokeshire; Powys; Rhondda, Cynon, Taff; Swansea; The Vale of Glamorgan; Torfaen; Wrexham
Dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
Independence: England has existed as a unified entity since the 10th century; the union between England and Wales, begun in 1284 with the Statute of Rhuddlan, was not formalized until 1536 with an Act of Union; in another Act of Union in 1707, England and Scotland agreed to permanently join as Great Britain; the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was implemented in 1801, with the adoption of the name the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927
National holiday: the UK does not celebrate one particular national holiday
Constitution: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice
Legal system: based on common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; has nonbinding judicial review of Acts of Parliament under the Human Rights Act of 1998; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES (son of the queen, born 14 November 1948)
head of government: Prime Minister James Gordon BROWN (since 27 June 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of House of Lords (618 seats; consisting of approximately 500 life peers, 92 hereditary peers, and 26 clergy) and House of Commons (646 seats since 2005 elections; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)
elections: House of Lords – no elections (note – in 1999, as provided by the House of Lords Act, elections were held in the House of Lords to determine the 92 hereditary peers who would remain there; elections are held only as vacancies in the hereditary peerage arise); House of Commons – last held 5 May 2005 (next to be held by June 2010)
election results: House of Commons – percent of vote by party – Labor 35.2%, Conservative 32.3%, Liberal Democrats 22%, other 10.5%; seats by party – Labor 355, Conservative 198, Liberal Democrat 62, other 31; seats by party in the House of Commons as of 21 November 2008 – Labor 350, Conservative 192, Liberal Democrat 63, Scottish National Party/Plaid Cymru 10, Democratic Unionist 9, Sinn Fein 5, other 17
note: in 1998 elections were held for a Northern Ireland Assembly (because of unresolved disputes among existing parties, the transfer of power from London to Northern Ireland came only at the end of 1999 and has been suspended four times, the latest occurring in October 2002 and lasting until 8 May 2007); in 1999, the UK held the first elections for a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly, the most recent of which were held in May 2007
Judicial branch: House of Lords (highest court of appeal; several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life); Supreme Courts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (comprising the Courts of Appeal, the High Courts of Justice, and the Crown Courts); Scotland’s Court of Session and Court of the Justiciary
Political parties and leaders: Conservative [David CAMERON]; Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [Peter ROBINSON]; Labor Party [Gordon BROWN]; Liberal Democrats [Nick CLEGG]; Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru) [Ieuan Wyn JONES]; Scottish National Party or SNP [Alex SALMOND]; Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Gerry ADAMS]; Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [Mark DURKAN]; Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [Sir Reg EMPEY]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Confederation of British Industry; National Farmers’ Union; Trades Union Congress
International organization participation: ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Arctic Council (observer), Australia Group, BIS, C, CBSS (observer), CDB, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, ESA, EU, FAO, G-20, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SECI (observer), UN, UN Security Council, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Sir Nigel E. SHEINWALD
chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-6500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-7870
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco
consulate(s): Denver, Orlando
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Robert Holmes TUTTLE
embassy: 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A 1AE
mailing address: PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040
telephone: [44] (0) 20 7499-9000
FAX: [44] (0) 20 7629-9124
consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh
Flag description: blue field with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, and British overseas territories
Culture The culture of the United Kingdom refers to the patterns of human activity and symbolism associated with the British people and the United Kingdom. It is informed by the UK’s history as a developed island country, monarchy, imperial power and, particularly, as consisting of four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—which each have their own preserved and distinctive customs and symbolism.

As a direct result of the British Empire, British cultural influence (such as the English language) can be observed in the language and culture of a geographically wide assortment of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, the United States, and the British overseas territories. These states are sometimes collectively known as the Anglosphere. As well as the British influence on its empire, the empire also influenced British culture, particularly British cuisine. Innovations and movements within the wider-culture of Europe have also changed the United Kingdom; Humanism, Protestantism, and representative democracy are borrowed from broader Western culture.

The Industrial Revolution, with its origins in the UK, brought about major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, and had a profound effect on the socio-economic and cultural conditions of the world. Popular culture of the United Kingdom has impacted upon the world in the form of the British invasion, Britpop and British television broadcasting. British literature and British poetry, particularly that of William Shakespeare, is revered across the world.

Economy Economy – overview: The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quintet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades, the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 2% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil resources, but its oil and natural gas reserves are declining and the UK became a net importer of energy in 2005; energy industries now contribute about 4% to GDP. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance. Since emerging from recession in 1992, Britain’s economy enjoyed the longest period of expansion on record during which time growth outpaced most of Western Europe. The global economic slowdown, tight credit, and falling home prices, however, pushed Britain back into recession in the latter half of 2008 and prompted the BROWN government to implement a number of new measures to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets; these include part-nationalizing the banking system, cutting taxes, suspending public sector borrowing rules, and bringing forward public spending on capital projects. The Bank of England periodically coordinates interest rate moves with the European Central Bank, but Britain remains outside the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and opinion polls show a majority of Britons oppose joining the euro.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $2.279 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.787 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 1.1% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $37,400 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 0.9%
industry: 22.8%
services: 76.2% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 31.2 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 1.4%
industry: 18.2%
services: 80.4% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate: 5.5% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line: 14% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 28.5% (1999)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 34 (2005)
Investment (gross fixed): 16.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.107 trillion
expenditures: $1.242 trillion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: 6 April – 5 April
Public debt: 47.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.8% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate: NA
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 5.52% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: NA
Stock of quasi money: NA
Stock of domestic credit: $5.278 trillion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $3.859 trillion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish
Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, other consumer goods
Electricity – production: 371 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 348.5 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 3.398 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – imports: 8.613 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 73.8%
hydro: 0.9%
nuclear: 23.7%
other: 1.6% (2001)
Oil – production: NA
Oil – consumption: 1.763 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – exports: 1.749 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 1.673 million bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 3.6 billion bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 72.3 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 91.1 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 10.4 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 29.2 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 412 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: -$72.54 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $468.7 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco
Exports – partners: US 14.2%, Germany 11.1%, France 8.1%, Ireland 8%, Netherlands 6.8%, Belgium 5.3%, Spain 4.5%, Italy 4.1% (2007)
Imports: $645.7 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs
Imports – partners: Germany 14.2%, US 8.6%, China 7.3%, Netherlands 7.3%, France 6.9%, Belgium 4.7%, Norway 4.7%, Italy 4.2% (2007)
Economic aid – donor: ODA, $12.46 billion (2006)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $57.3 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt – external: $10.45 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $1.409 trillion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $1.841 trillion (2008 est.)
Currency (code): British pound (GBP)
Currency code: GBP
Exchange rates: British pounds (GBP) per US dollar – 0.5302 (2008 est.), 0.4993 (2007), 0.5418 (2006), 0.5493 (2005), 0.5462 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 33.682 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 71.992 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: technologically advanced domestic and international system
domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems
international: country code – 44; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and US; satellite earth stations – 10 Intelsat (7 Atlantic Ocean and 3 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and 1 Eutelsat; at least 8 large international switching centers
Radio broadcast stations: AM 206, FM 696, shortwave 3 (2008)
Radios: 84.5 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 940 (2008)
Televisions: 30.5 million (1997)
Internet country code: .uk
Internet hosts: 8.269 million (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): more than 400 (2000)
Internet users: 40.2 million (2007)
Transportation Airports: 449 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 310
over 3,047 m: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 33
1,524 to 2,437 m: 131
914 to 1,523 m: 79
under 914 m: 59 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 139
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 113 (2007)
Heliports: 11 (2007)
Pipelines: condensate 567 km; condensate/gas 22 km; gas 18,980 km; liquid petroleum gas 59 km; oil 4,930 km; oil/gas/water 165 km; refined products 4,444 km (2007)
Railways: total: 16,567 km
broad gauge: 303 km 1.600-m gauge (in Northern Ireland)
standard gauge: 16,264 km 1.435-m gauge (5,361 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 398,366 km
paved: 398,366 km (includes 3,520 km of expressways) (2006)
Waterways: 3,200 km (620 km used for commerce) (2008)
Merchant marine: total: 518
by type: bulk carrier 33, cargo 67, carrier 5, chemical tanker 61, container 180, liquefied gas 18, passenger 10, passenger/cargo 67, petroleum tanker 23, refrigerated cargo 12, roll on/roll off 24, vehicle carrier 18
foreign-owned: 264 (Cyprus 2, Denmark 62, Finland 1, France 23, Germany 76, Hong Kong 2, Ireland 1, Italy 5, Japan 4, NZ 1, Norway 31, South Africa 3, Spain 1, Sweden 17, Switzerland 1, Taiwan 11, Turkey 2, UAE 9, US 12)
registered in other countries: 391 (Algeria 11, Antigua and Barbuda 9, Argentina 4, Australia 5, Bahamas 56, Barbados 9, Belize 5, Bermuda 3, Brunei 1, Cape Verde 1, Cayman Islands 3, Cyprus 19, Gibraltar 2, Greece 32, Hong Kong 39, India 2, Italy 7, South Korea 1, Liberia 20, Luxembourg 8, Malta 19, Marshall Islands 18, Netherlands 2, Norway 5, Panama 59, Saint Kitts and Nevis 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 14, Sierra Leone 2, Singapore 17, Slovakia 1, Spain 5, Sweden 2, Thailand 5, Tonga 1, US 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Dover, Felixstowe, Immingham, Liverpool, London, Southampton, Teesport (England), Forth Ports, Hound Point (Scotland), Milford Haven (Wales)
Military Military branches: Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force
Military service age and obligation: 16-33 years of age (officers 17-28) for voluntary military service (with parental consent under 18); women serve in military services, but are excluded from ground combat positions and some naval postings; must be citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, or Republic of Ireland; reservists serve a minimum of 3 years, to age 45 or 55; 16 years of age for voluntary military service by Nepalese citizens in the Brigade of the Gurkhas; 16-34 years of age for voluntary military service by Papua New Guinean citizens (2008)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 14,729,500
females age 16-49: 14,125,600 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 12,121,602
females age 16-49: 11,616,582 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 400,927
female: 383,593 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 2.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: in 2002, Gibraltar residents voted overwhelmingly by referendum to reject any “shared sovereignty” arrangement between the UK and Spain; the Government of Gibraltar insists on equal participation in talks between the two countries; Spain disapproves of UK plans to grant Gibraltar greater autonomy; Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory), and its former inhabitants since their eviction in 1965; most Chagossians reside in Mauritius, and in 2001 were granted UK citizenship, where some have since resettled; in May 2006, the High Court of London reversed the UK Government’s 2004 orders of council that banned habitation on the islands; UK rejects sovereignty talks requested by Argentina, which still claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark’s claim that the Faroe Islands’ continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm
Illicit drugs: producer of limited amounts of synthetic drugs and synthetic precursor chemicals; major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, Latin American cocaine, and synthetic drugs; money-laundering center

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

( I FIRST POSTED THIS ARTICLE ON SEPTEMBER 19th OF 2016. I FEEL THAT THIS IS AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE, ONE THAT i HOPE YOU WILL TAKE A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME TO READ AS IT IS VERY ‘TELLING’)

Special Dispatch Memri
Iranian General Discusses Shi’ite Liberation Army Under Command Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Is Subordinate To Supreme Leader Khomeini September 15, 2016 Special Dispatch No.6611

On August 18, 2016, Ali Falaki, a retired general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who commanded a brigade in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and claims to have volunteered to fight in Syria, gave an interview to the Iranian website Mashregh, which is close to the IRGC. In it, he spoke of the “Shi’ite Liberation Army” that Iran has deployed on its three battlefronts in the Middle East – in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – stating that it comprises divisions based on ethnicity that Iran has established for this purpose. These divisions, he said, are the Afghan division (Fatemiyoun), the Pakistani division (Zaynabiyoun) and the Iraqi division (Hayderiyoun), in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah division that is operating in Lebanon and Syria. Falaki explained that these divisions comprise the Shi’ite Liberation Army that operates according to the ethnic model adopted by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.[1]


Ali Falaki (Image: Farsnews.com)

Falaki stressed that while the Shi’ite Liberation Army forces on the various fronts are divided by ethnicity, their command structure is Iranian, and is headed by IRGC officers under the command of Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which operates outside Iran’s borders. He added that Soleimani answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini.

Falaki, who said that he maintains direct contact with the top echelons of the Iranian Army and IRGC, proudly reported that he had commanded, as part of the Afghan division, many Iranian Army soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Syria since February 2016. He said that it had been decided that they would be incorporated into the Afghan division of the Shi’ite Liberation Army as commanders. Falaki appears to be referring to February reports that Iran had replaced IRGC officers in Syria with Iranian Army soldiers and to relations between the IRGC and the Iranian Army, which have had their ups and downs.

Like other Iranian spokesmen, Falaki stressed that Iran is not sending Iranian forces to directly fight on the various fronts in the Middle East, but is creating local fighting forces that it provides with “guidance, organization, and management” by means of IRGC officers, and, when necessary also reinforces with the ethnic divisions of the Shi’ite Liberation Army. Wherever “there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized and supplied with the necessary forces,” he said. He added that the Shi’ite Liberation Army was established “because of the existence of Israel,” which Khamenei has vowed will cease to exist in about 20 years, though in practice the Shi’ite Liberation Army is fighting against Sunnis in the Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Falaki uses the term “Shi’ite Liberation Army” to mean two things: one, that its mission is to liberate Shi’ites, and two, that it is itself distinctly Shi’ite.

Following are excerpts from Falaki’s interview on the Mashregh website:[2]

“The First Seed Of The Shi’ite And Muslim Liberation Army Was Germinated In Syria”

“We have certain weaknesses in Syria that I do not wish to currently discuss, but some of them stem from a weakness we have in Iran. From here [in Iran], we come to South Lebanon and support the Shi’ites there; we come to Bahrain and Yemen at great expense and support the Shi’ites there.

“In Lebanon, we found [Hizbullah secretary-general] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, but here [in Iran], we could find no leader among all the active revolutionary [Afghan] clerics willing to be on the frontlines [like he is], nor could we organize such large forces [as Hizbullah]. We were not able to properly support the three million Shi’ite Afghans [living in Iran as refugees], and it is very unfortunate that for 30 years we ignored Afghan Shi’ites who, despite their oppression, resisted the arrogance of the east [Russia] and the West [the U.S.] in Afghanistan. We saw them as mere laborers waiting [for work] at intersections or as criminals. This generation [of Afghans in Iran] stepped up and showed heroism, altruism, courage, and daring in Syria. They shone under the command of the Iranian forces…

“Under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem [Soleimani], the Afghans prevented Zaynabiyya, Damascus, and the airport from falling [to the Syrian rebels]… We must not think that we [Iranians] are fighting in Syria, [but rather that] the Afghans are being courageous there under our command…

“The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ refers to explicit aid from God. The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ produced two great events… [for Iran] in the world of Islam. First, during the [Iran-Iraq] War, we were tasked with creating unity among [ethnic] sects [in Iran] – Lors, Kurds, Baluchis, Persians, and Arabs – [albeit] in separate frameworks,  [which all fought] the Ba’ath Party [in Iraq]. We transformed all the [ethnic] sects into military divisions, and during the war never dared to say that some of the brothers were Sunnis and some were [Shi’ite] Afghans.

“The Fatemiyoun banner was raised, and thus the first seed of the liberation army of Shi’ites and Muslims was germinated in Syria. Today we have the privilege [of forming the Shi’ite Liberation Army] because back then, we created the unity among the [ethnic] sects; now, we have created international [Shi’ite] unity. The [Pakistani] Zaynabiyoun division comprises Pakistanis under the command of IRGC officers. The [Afghan] Fatemiyoun division has several brigades comprising Afghans, and even has some Sunni members. IRGC [officers] guide this division. These divisions include IRGC commanders and [Afghani] commanders, from squad commanders to staff officers. These divisions have a single uniform and a single banner. They come under a single umbrella organization and fight on a single battlefront. We also have the Hayderiyoun division, which comprises Iraqis. We also have a Hezbollah division, which is divided into two: one part is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other is Hezbollah in Syria, which comprises the people of Damascus, Nubl, and Al-Zahraa.

“The [Shi’ite] Liberation Army was formed because, with God’s help, in 23 years there should be no such thing as Israel. These divisions are on the Israeli border. The Fatemiyoun have laid the groundwork for this fight.

“The second thing, that we are happy to see is spreading to everyone, is that our previous [patronizing] view of these [Afghan] brothers has changed…”

“Wherever There Is A Need For This Army, The People In That Region Will Be Organized And Supplied With Necessary Forces”

“The Shi’ite Liberation Army was established, and it is currently under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem Soleimani, who obeys the leader [Khomeini]. One of this army’s fronts is in Syria, another is in Iraq, and yet another is in Yemen. The forces in this army are not meant to be only Iranian; [instead], wherever there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized [to form it] and supplied with the necessary forces…

“We [Iranians] are not meant to come [to Syria] as forces operating [on the ground]. We want [Iranian] elements who know how to teach, organize, and manage to come to Syria. This way, the forces in that region can spring into action…

“Some of the commanders of the army [of the Syrian regime] fled abroad, and some of its bases were captured. The crushed Syrian army units have today regrouped with renewed strength. Therefore, there is no need for us [in Iran] to send an army there. We can stand alongside the Syrian army, organize Syrian forces, and prepare them for battle. [In the future] we can remove the enemy occupation of Syria, just as we did in [Iranian] Kurdistan, which took a year or two – but controlling foreign incursions into Syria is up to the Syrians themselves and we cannot prevent it.

“Regime change and changes of president can happen only when the enemy is no longer [in Syria]…  For example, we succeeded, within two years, to expel the enemy presence in Kurdistan in western [Iran], but it took us years to impose law and order there… Today, this region is considered one of the safest in Iran… even though 20 years ago, they were beheading IRGC personnel with pottery shards…”

The Iranian Army Felt It Had A Roll To Fulfill In Syria

“The Iranian army felt that it had to fulfill a role in this [Syrian] arena. According to my knowledge, the army told Qassem Soleimani that it wants to fulfill its duty in this matter [i.e. fighting in Syria]. Qassem Soleimani told this to the leader [Khomeini], and the leader gave his blessing… Some volunteers from various military units, who were mostly experts in aerial combat, were sent to Syria in mid-February 2016.

“These [Iranian army] forces were competent enough to operate independently, but we decided that they would operate as part of the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun [division]. God rewarded me by placing me in command of them as part of the Fatemiyoun [division]. I placed them in charge of the area and transferred means to them, and after a short period, the [Afghan] unit was placed under their command. Neither their rank nor their weapons in Iran were the same as they were [after they joined] the Fatemiyoun [in Syria]. But due to their presence in Syria and after a short time fighting alongside the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun brothers, they became one organization, wore the same uniform, and fought in the same trenches. They became fast friends.

“I also told [Iranian ground forces commander] Amir Pourdastan that I was proud to fight along with the brothers from the [Iranian] army on one of the global battlefront outside of Iran, just like during the sacred defense period [the Iran-Iraq War]. [Back then] there was no difference [between us and them] and they were like the Basij boys [of the IRGC].

“I spoke with the commander who was tasked with sending [Iranian soldiers to Syria] and he said: ‘One of my concerns is to curb the wave of volunteers who want to be sent [to Syria]. According to the needs of the [Iranian] General Staff, we only send the necessary amount of forces [to Syria]. Had I allowed it, we would have had several divisions of [Iranian] volunteers [in Syria].’

“The presence of these forces has been hugely beneficial [in the Syrian arena]. They also suffered martyrdoms and injuries, but this did not damage their morale or make them less determined. They were experienced, brave, and passionate…

“The [volunteers] coming from Iran to Syria are given a monthly stipend of $100.”

“We Do Not Wish To Produce An Atomic Bomb… [But Rather] Prove… That [We] Can Reach Higher Than France [And] England… In All Fields… Even On The Military Level”

“Until our power grows, the world of the arrogance [the U.S.] will never let us be. Some wonder why there is a need for tension between us and the Western world. I must say that if we tolerate this tension for a while, we will be a match for [the enemy] and then they will no longer dare fight us. We do not wish to produce an atomic bomb. We only want to prove that our people and country can reach higher than France, England, Austria, and Denmark in all fields – humanities, science, economy, technology, as well as human rights, and even on the military level.

“If we destroy the enemy that is currently mobilizing against us, there will be no room for any other country [to mobilize against us]. When we show our true might, they will no longer be able to do anything against us…”

 

End notes:

 

[1] In the first part of the interview Falaki refers to the problem of the Afghan refugees in Iran, who number some 3,000,000. The Iranian regime recruits young men from among these refugees to fight in Syria as part of the Afghan division. The fighters receive a monthly stipend and, if they fall in battle, their families’ social status is enhanced.

[2] Fars (Iran), August 18, 2016. It should be mentioned that the interview was deleted from the Mashregh website shortly after publication.

Ghana: History And Current Conditions

(This article is courtesy of Wikipedia)

Ghana (Listeni/ˈɡɑːnə/), officially the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign unitary presidential constitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2, Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. The word Ghana means “Warrior King” in the Soninke language.[10]

The territory of present-day Ghana has been inhabited for millennia, with the first permanent state dating back to the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Ashanti.[11] Beginning in the 15th century, numerous European powers contested the area for trading rights, with the British ultimately establishing control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of native resistance, Ghana’s current borders were established by the 1900s as the British Gold Coast. In 1957, it became the first Sub-Saharan African nation to declare independence from European colonization.[12][13][14]

A multicultural nation, Ghana has a population of approximately 27 million, spanning a variety of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.[5] Five percent of the population practices traditional faiths, 71.2% adhere to Christianity and 17.6% are Muslim. Its diverse geography and ecology ranges from coastal savanna’s to tropical jungles. Ghana is a democratic country led by a president who is both head of state and head of the government. Ghana’s economy is one of the strongest and most diversified in Africa, following a quarter century of relative stability and good governance.[15] Ghana’s growing economic prosperity and democratic political system has made it a regional power in West Africa.[16] It is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of 24 (G24).[17]

Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

MORE REPORTING ON ARCHAEOLOGY

  • A Jewel in Syria Where ‘Ruins Have Been Ruined’ by ISIS APRIL 05, 2016

  • Stonehenge Begins to Yield Its Secrets NOV. 10, 2015

  • NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks NOV. 03, 2015

  • The Roanoke Island Colony: Lost, and Found?AUG. 11, 2015

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”

So, The English Have A New Prince, Maybe That Isn’t All

(THIS IS FROM AN OLD SCHOOL FRIEND OF MINE ON HIS FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, I JUST HAD TO POST THIS ONE)

 

A Romanian in the UK: ‘Undesirable Migrant’ Or ‘Welcomed Contributor’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

A Romanian in the UK: On the Thin Line Between ‘Undesirable Migrant’ and ‘Welcomed Contributor’

Alexandra Bulat, photo from her official page at UCL, used with her permission.

What is the human side of the Brexit, the UK ‘divorce’ from the EU? Numerous controversies remain, as well as the need to fix the system in order to avoid further suffering for millions of people caught in a bureaucratic uncertainty or facing arbitrary and unjust rules and regulations.

According to the newspaper The Sun, around 3.6 million EU nationals currently live in the UK, including nearly 600,000 children. Among them, eastern Europeans have been specially branded by Leavers (those who support UK’s separation from Europe) as “unwanted” immigrants. They often are tagged as “benefit scroungers, here to steal jobs”. This sentiment is not new, as they already felt like second-class citizens because of working restrictions initially put on migrants from central and eastern Europe when they joined the EU. Arguably, UK’s decision to open its labor market to these countries is what led the voters to become so opposed to migration from the EU.

Photographer Deividas Buivydas shared some captivating images from Boston, Lincolnshire, where tension against eastern Europeans is evident and post-Brexit anxiety is bubbling. This town registered the highest Leave vote in Britain, at 75.6 per cent and was dubbed “the capital of Brexit”. It also is home of the largest proportion of Eastern Europeans in the country.

The life story of Alexandra Bulat, a young scholar from Romania who made a career at top UK academic institutions also offers a telling example, as she referred to a famous phrase by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, uttered in January 2017:

I am a Romanian PhD student, teaching assistant & researcher. One of @theresa_may‘s praised “brightest and the best” whose “contributions are welcome”.

This I want to share my story. Until I got to this point, I was in many ways an “undesirable migrant” ⬇️

Ms. Bulat shared her story in a series of much-retweeted tweets which are summarized bellow.

My first experience in the UK was in 1997. My father got a temporary [National Health Service] contract as there was a skill shortage. I attended the hospital’s nursery for 7 months but my family chose to return to Romania. My mum was unemployed and my father had limited rights to work.

Meanwhile my parents got divorced. I attended a free school and skipped many classes in the last college years. Grew up mainly with “working class kids” sometimes doing dangerous things. But I achieved the highest grade in the Romanian Baccalaureate and this opened many doors.

I returned to the UK at 18 to study. I passed an IELTS exam but this was not enough to understand even half of what my British colleagues were saying. Should I have been “sent back” then as I could not properly engage in English conversations in my first few months?

Three years later I graduated with a first class degree from . It was a fun but difficult time. My mum came looking for work when I was in my second year and we shared a studio room at some point. I worked various part time jobs. Met my British partner.

In 2015 I received offers from both  and  to do my Masters. In the summer I worked as an intern in London to save money. We had no savings and definitely not enough to pay the 10,000 pounds tuition fee. Should I have given up my dreams?

I borrowed money from the bank for my fee and accepted my Master of Philosophy (MPhil) offer at Cambridge. I had barely enough to cover the first term of college accommodation and no idea what to do next. My mum was made redundant and things were not going well.

Meanwhile one of my colleagues was shocked to hear my experience of college – “So you did not have prep classes for Oxbridge interviews???”. Nope. This is maybe why I failed my Oxford interview for undergrad despite passing the written test. Oh, also my poor English.

I read my MPhil handbook saying we should not do any paid work. I did paid work throughout my MPhil and finished with 72% overall. Meanwhile mum got a job and things got back to normal around graduation time, after a year of familiarizing myself with Sainsbury’s Basic [a supermarket chain offering low cost produce].

Should me and my mum have been deported due to insufficient resources in those times? “If you do not make a net contribution you should be sent home”, some claim. Life is not a tick-box as the immigration categories are.

Alexandra Bulat. Courtesy photo used with her permission.

In 2016 after a summer of work on a temp contract I accepted my fully funded PhD at . This was the best thing that happened to me. I was sad to leave Cambridge uni but I could not have afforded a PhD with no funding. Funding is very competitive in social sciences.

My mum’s job was again subject to restructuring in 2017. After a few months of job searching she decided to leave to Germany. She also was concerned about  after Brexit. They are not guaranteed yet. She is working in Germany now, the UK lost a skilled professional.

In 2018 all things go well. I speak fluent English, have a lovely British partner and I am halfway through my PhD. But I, like all  and  are still . Our reduced  are not secured in case of no deal.

In the mind of many people rudely commenting on  posts such as the stories shared in ‘s articles, we should be sent back home unless we are a constantly producing tax payment machine. It is important to realize the complexity of migrant stories. According to these people’s logic, my mum should have been deported every time she lost her job and I should not have been allowed in with little English or “insufficient resources”. We have not claimed a single benefit all these years, not even job-seeker’s allowance.

To everyone that tells me to stop criticizing settled status because “I will be fine, cos I am a PhD student and skilled migrant”, I am saying: no. I will not close the gate behind me just because I managed to become a “desirable migrant”.  were promised for all.

On 1 June 2016, few weeks ahead of the Brexit Referendum, the “Vote Leave” campaign issued a statement by Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, and Gisela Stuart, claiming that:

Second, there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.

In October of the same year, David Davis, Brexit Secretary tried to downplay the concerns of people like Ms. Bulat’s mother, by claiming that “Five out of six migrants who are here either already have indefinite leave to remain or ​will have it by the time we depart the [EU].” However, the UK fact-checking service FullFact concluded:

This is not fully substantiated by the evidence and will depend on the arrangements we make upon leaving the EU. Whatever happens, EU citizens are not going to be forced to leave en masse.

FullFact also noted other points of uncertainty, which depend on the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations which are still in the works, and are supposed to end by March 2019. For instance, the right to permanent residence under EU law may or may not survive Brexit and might depend on meeting criteria for permanent residence such as “whether they’re working, looking for work, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient…”

Instead, automatic grant of all existing rights promised by Vote Leave is still uncertainty for both EU migrants in UK and British in EU27. Many areas remain unclear and are under negotiations such as some family reunification rights and political rights (EU migrants can vote in local elections only)…

recent protest by the group Highly Skilled Migrants, which says it represents over 600 doctors, engineers, IT professionals, teachers and their families in Britain attempted to raise profile of ‘discriminatory’ Home Office rules. The ‘harsh migration policy’ affects both immigrants from ‘overseas’, and those coming from the EU member countries. Latest data indicates large drop in the number of EU nationals seeking jobs in the UK due to Brexit uncertainty.

Ms. Bulat concluded her story with the following tweet:

We need a solution to protect all , just as promised by Vote Leave. No more “bad migrant”-“good migrant” division games. People’s lives do not fit in a tickbox. Politicians should listen to more real migrant stories to understand.

Prince Charles, Free Speech, And Being Real

Prince Charles, Free Speech, And Being Real

 

On my Google Homepage a day or so ago I read an article from USA Today that spoke of some letters that Prince Charles had written to various members of Government throughout the years. I am not from England and I have never been able to afford to travel there so I am not an expert on their Governments inner workings. For those of us who are not from the UK this is a case where evidently the Prince as a member of the Royal Family is not allowed to express his opinions on pretty much on any subject matter because in being who he is he must remain neutral on all subjects. People, how would this even be possible for a person, any person, to never express their opinion, especially if you are in constant media glare like a person such as Prince Charles is?

 

Evidently a Media source in the UK had filed suit under the freedom of closure type of act years ago to have these 27 letters released to the public. Prince Charles had fought their release because they were private letters. Personally I disagree with the final Court decision to release the letters because I agree with Prince Charles, they were private. My point is this, why should every citizen in the UK have freedom of their own speech but Prince Charles because he is a member of the Royal Family should have none? Also, how does a person go through life with no opinion at all on anything? Briton, is that what you really want? Do you want the members of the Royal Family to be totally muted? Do you really not have and interest in these people as to who they really are as people nor what they really think as individuals on different subject matter? Their family is not able to enforce their will on any of you so why should they not be allowed to express their opinions in the same legal manner that every other citizen of the UK are allowed to do?

 

If these people can not feel free to express their opinions in private with others then are you not then guilty of insisting they follow an impossible course that you yourself can not abide to? Do you really want all of the Royal Family to be nothing but a photo shoot with a bunch of empty suits? If you want that, go visit the inner DC Beltway there is enough of that phony there to drown a Duck.

 

 

Who Do You Consider To Be Your Family

Who Do You Consider To Be Your Family

 

Who do you consider your family to be? I know from raising this subject within small groups that people have a wide variety of answers to that simple question. Some people only feel that their immediate household is their family, you know, Mom, Dad, and siblings. I have met quite a few people who have even divorced some of or all of those people from their lives. I have met many people who are by blood siblings or parents of friends that I know well, whom when you met them you see why your friends have no use for this or that blood relative. When I was growing up I was inundated by alcoholics who were also close blood and of course those they chose to hang around and guzzle the suds with. These days it seems that drugs like crack and meth are the vehicle which is totally ripping families apart. When people get hooked on those chemicals they usually find themselves unemployed and homeless when they have used up all of their friends and family because they will steal from anyone to get another high. After a while even close family members tell them to never darken their doorway again. Of course there are many other reasons also that causes families to fall apart, to me, either which way you look at this issue it is sad when brother won’t speak to his brother, or parent to child.

 

 

My wife as well as a few other people throughout my life have told me they think I’m nuts because to me once you are family, you are always family. I have at times joked that I must have some Italian blood in my veins because of how I feel about this issue. I know that I don’t, my tree just goes back to Norway, Ireland, Scotland, and England so I’m just a Scandinavian area mutt. The only brother that I ever knew (one brother died before I was born) was married three times before he died from an aneurysm at the age of 43. He was seven years older than me and so he was out whoring around well before I was. Each of the three ladies that he married already had kids when he married them. He had one child with each of them but there were/are 18 kids that weren’t his. Don’t think that I am trying to get uppity on my brother now because I myself have been married three times also. Total I have two blood kids of my own and I have two-step kids that to me are my kids as if they were blood, I love all four of them. They are all four grown and I have seven grand-kids now, I consider myself to be a very fortunate person.

 

 

About everyone I know thinks we have got this in our DNA of caring, or we don’t. I am from a small core family of five, so to me once a person or persons are family, you are always family. Should I not speak with former in-laws of my own or of my brother just because of a divorce? Do you just stop communicating with people that you grew to love as if they just don’t matter anymore? To me it is difficult to stop loving someone who you have honestly loved. You see, to me all of my brothers kids and step kids are my nephews and nieces and they always will be, just as his three x-wives will always be sisters to me.

 

 

What is your opinion on my line of thoughts and beliefs about family? Do you think I am just plain odd that I would count people as family the way I do? What is your opinion on whom you consider to be in your heart? I have met a few people who when they got old enough to get out on their own they totally divorced themselves from everyone they knew usually because of how they were treated in their growing up years. To me that would be a sad personal situation for any person to be in but I have also know of parents who put their kid on the street and told them to never come to their door again. It is sad for people to have such splits in their lives, it really doesn’t surprise me why many people only consider people who are not blood, to be their real family. Well, if you would, drop me a line on your thought’s of what or who, that you consider to make up a family. Thank you for your time, I appreciate you stopping in. Goodnight and God’s blessings I pray for you and your family, (inner circle).—Oldpoet56

 

Slavery in today’s MENA and in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MENA-FORUM)

 

THE GLOBAL SLAVERY INDEX 2016 published this information page “as violent conflict escalates and political, economic, social and security spill overs destabilise many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the profile of victims vulnerable to modern slavery has shifted. Though MENA continues to act as a destination for men and women from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa who are attracted to the region with promises of well-paying jobs, increasingly Middle Easterners themselves faced exploitation and slavery in 2016. Victims were identified as forced recruits in state and non-state armed groups, as victims of forced marriage and victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Foreign and local citizens were subject to forced labour and debt bondage in service sectors such as domestic work, cleaning, and as drivers and restaurant workers, as well as in construction, agriculture and mechanics.” Slavery in today’s MENA and in the world generally still escapes the media’s radar.

 

In effect, this sort of affairs is not restricted to the MENA region only as per today the Construction Index of the United Kingdom published this short but significant article on the same but sad subject.

A Romanian man has been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences relating to labour abuse on London construction sites.

Above: One man has been arrested

The government’s Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), supported by police, carried out simultaneous swoops on five homes in Barking, Walthamstow, Forest Gate, Ilford and Newham as part of an investigation into the exploitation of eastern European workers.

One man is in custody on suspicion of modern slavery offences and more than 50 people are being treated as ‘vulnerable’ following the early morning raids yesterday (21st February).

The GLAA raids were in response to allegations of labour abuse on construction sites across the capital, threats of violence and false identities being used.

A number of people, all believed to be Romanian or Moldovan nationals, were found to be living at the five addresses that were raided. In one terraced house 23 people were found to be living in cramped conditions, including six women and two young children. Ten have been taken to a reception centre, including two 15-year-old boys.

The arrested man, a Romanian national in his 20s, is being held at Forest Gate Police Station for questioning.

GLAA senior investigating officer Tony Byrne said: “Our capability to investigate and take action to disrupt alleged criminality and labour abuse is increasing. Our priority is to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and today’s action demonstrates we will act when our intelligence suspects labour offences are being committed.”

The Crown Prosecution Service is this week hosting a three-day summit on modern slavery and human trafficking, with representatives from 15 countries.

London City Airport closed after WWII bomb discovered

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

London City Airport closed after WWII bomb discovered

A plane waits on the runway at London City Airport.

(CNN) London City Airport will remain closed through Monday after a World War II bomb was discovered by construction workers in the nearby Thames River a day earlier.

After the discovery of the unexploded bomb near King George V Dock on Sunday, the airport canceled all flights and put an exclusion zone in place, airport Chief Executive Robert Sinclair said in a statement.
“I recognize this is causing inconvenience for our passengers,” Sinclair added, saying that the airport is “cooperating fully with the Met Police and Royal Navy and working hard to safely remove the device and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”
The airport said it is “hoping to resume normal operation” on Tuesday, according to a tweet from the airport’s official account, and urged all passengers due to fly to contact their airlines for further information.
Metropolitan Police and the Royal Navy were deployed to the scene to examine the bomb and have confirmed it as a “500 kg (1102 pounds) tapered end shell measuring approximately 1.5 meters (4.9 feet),” according to a police statement issued Monday. “The timing of removal is dependent on the tides, however, at this stage we estimate that the removal of the device from location will be completed by tomorrow morning.”
The Royal Navy implemented the 214-meter exclusion zone to “ensure that the ordnance can be safely dealt with whilst limiting any risk to the public,” the police statement said.
In an effort to minimize the disruption, officers are going to homes within the exclusion zone to make residents aware of any safety arrangement put in place, the statement added.
London City is an international airport located in the borough of Newham in East London. The area was heavily industrial and highly populated during WWII. The Royal Docks, where the runway is now located, were a main entry point on the Thames for goods and commerce.
The airport, which is much smaller than London Heathrow Airport, caters to business travelers heading to destinations in the UK, Europe and the United States.